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House Republicans are in chaos again as conservatives derail a key surveillance bill

By 37ci3 Apr11,2024

WASHINGTON — A group of hard-right activists backed by former President Donald Trump rebelled against GOP leaders on Wednesday, blocking a renewal of a powerful surveillance program that expires next week and throwing the GOP-led House into chaos again.

Nineteen conservatives argued with Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his leadership team and voted for a “rule”; the vote was 193-228. Still another example It uses an otherwise procedural vote to prevent the Republican minority from debating their party’s legislation in the House.

According to an NBC News investigation, this was the seventh time Congress — and fourth under Johnson — Republicans have overturned their rules.

Given the party’s slim margin, Wednesday’s Republican uprising effectively derailed — for now — the carefully crafted compromise legislation to reauthorize Article 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

After the vote, Johnson scheduled a special closed-door meeting of House Republicans for Wednesday afternoon, but more than an hour later, there was no progress. It’s unclear whether Congress will be able to renew 702, which the administration says is a critical national security tool, before it expires on April 19.

“We’re going to regroup and reshape another plan,” Johnson told reporters. “We cannot allow FISA section 702 to expire. It is critical to national security.”

One option now is that the Senate could send a short-term extension of FISA to the House without any reforms. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Iowa, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said: “It’s a fact — if FISA goes down, we’re probably going to expand the current FISA. Stupid.” “They will end up with the worst option.”

The current FISA instrument allows the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign nationals without a warrant, a higher bar for targeted American citizens. The new House Republican bill calls for a number of reforms, but it doesn’t go far enough in the eyes of privacy and civil liberties advocates on both the right and the left.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump wrote on his social media platform: “KILL FISA IT WAS USED AGAINST ME AND MANY OTHERS. THEY CAPS MY CAMPAIGN!!!” – An obvious reference to the FBI twisted Oversight by former Trump aide Carter Page.

“We’re killing FISA. As written, it won’t get off the ground,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., He wrote in XHe answered Trump.

Two other Trump loyalists, R-Fla., Reps. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., also said they would vote no on the rule before the vote.

“We’re throwing away our Constitution and our Bills of Rights with this history of abuse. It should be on the scrap heap,” Burchett said in an interview. “They’ve broken the law before. What’s to stop them from doing it again? We need to remove that tool.”

A controversial issue dominated a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday morning. Johnson warned Republican lawmakers that without reforms to the House GOP bill, they would be stuck with a short-term FISA extension from the Senate, four sources said. He described that as a worst-case scenario because it would deny Republicans a chance to revise the law.

After the meeting, Johnson reiterated to reporters that Section 702 cannot be allowed to expire, saying that the spying powers are essential to protect Americans.

“We have to maintain the balance that the government always does. You … should jealously guard the fundamental freedom of the American people,” Johnson said. “You protect freedom, but you must also protect your safety. And we cannot allow a critical tool like this to simply expire.”

While most Democrats and the White House support expanding FISA, House Democrats are unlikely to vote on the rule. In addition to the FISA bill, the order includes a Republican resolution on Israel that criticizes President Joe Biden. pressure Changing the country’s war strategy after the strike a World Central Kitchen aid convoy.

“We need to reauthorize FISA. “Unfortunately, the speaker has chosen to conflate this rule vote with a lot of other things,” said House Democrat Pete Aguilar, No. 3, of California. “In addition, there are partisan resolutions. Therefore, I would not expect any democrat to support it.”

While some Republicans oppose FISA reauthorization, others are expected to support a rule to vote on a warrant request for the Section 702 program. Members of the House Intelligence Committee and the intelligence community warn that such a requirement could cripple the program.

Supporters of the House FISA bill argued that without renewing Section 702, another major terrorist attack could occur on American soil. Families of 9/11 victims sent a letter to the speaker urging Congress to reauthorize Section 702, according to a copy obtained by NBC News. The letter from 9/11 Families United was distributed to House Republicans during their weekly conference call Wednesday morning.

“We believe that failure to renew Section 702 will harm America’s national security and put Americans at risk of new terrorist attacks,” the letter reads.

The push to limit government oversight has led to an unusual right-left coalition.

Rules Committee competent Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. vote in the House of Representatives for an amendment to limit warrantless surveillance of US persons under the FISA Act, written by; Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; Jerry Nadler, DN.Y.; Warren Davidson, R-Ohio; Zoe Lofgren, California; and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jordan appeared on conservative host Mark Levy’s show to make his case for changing the current FISA law.

“There must be a demand for the forest,” Jordan said. “I am in favor of tracking foreigners who want to harm us. But when you do that, you inevitably pick up a number of Americans innocently a few times. If you’re going to search that database, you have to go through a separate equivalent department of the government and get a probable cause warrant. This is how it works.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the White House “strongly supports” the House FISA bill. But the administration opposes the Jordan amendment, which Sullivan said would “build a wall around it and thus block access to information already lawfully collected in the possession of the US government.”

Christy Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said: “I cannot imagine operating in today’s counterterrorism environment without FISA Section 702, and I don’t know how we would replace it if it were gone. Our No. 1 mission is to protect the United States homeland from a variety of threats, and speed is key to accomplishing that mission.”

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